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Friday 20 May 2022

Plant-based learnings for Vince

7th December 2021 By Bridget O'Connell | bridget@foodticker.co.nz | @foodtickernz

Plant-based startup Vince is on track to complete a pre-seed fundraising round before Christmas and is has set goals of building brand awareness and increasing direct sales for 2022.

Vince’s production is expanding from 300 units per week to 300 per day.

Co-founder of the Whangārei-based dehydrated vegetable mince business Debbie Stowe said they had been toying with going out to the market for a $300,000 seed round, but instead opted to reach out to friends and family to raise $70,000 of pre-seed capital.

Stowe said the advantage of this was that they did not have to value the young business right away, and could instead issue investors convertible notes and spend another year building up the brand and sales before going out for the planned seed round.

The pre-seed capital would build on $25,000 the business had received in September from the Ākina Impact Investment Readiness Programme, and would be invested into extending its commercial kitchen, new equipment to scale up production and continue building up awareness of the brand.

Vince is currently sold direct online and through speciality retailers including Farro Fresh and via Foodstuffs in the local Northland area, but Stowe said there were some challenges for the burgeoning brand to overcome when it came to mainstream retail.

“Because it is a new category and our alt-mince doesn’t fit in with all the other alt-meats in the fridge and freezer section in [in the supermarket] it goes in the aisle with the rice and pasta as a ready-meal but it is quite hard to stick it on a supermarket shelf and expect people to know what it is,” Stowe said.

“Unless you know what it is and you are looking for it, not many people are going to pick it. I am a curious shopper I am always looking out for things but most people are in and out of there to get what they need.”

Stowe said they were still committed to bricks and mortar supermarket sales and the introduction of speciality vegan dried goods sections in some high street supermarkets would help their case, but expansion into retail also takes time.

“In Countdown our category is due for review next June, and if we were accepted we wouldn’t be in store until January 2023 which is so far away, so we have to think about how we are going to grow in the meantime.”

That meant overhauling its website and driving more sales direct, while simultaneously investing in the brand, which just took out the Pantry Award category at the 2021 New Zealand Food Awards, powered by Massey University, beating other finalists including Fix & Fogg and Pic’s Peanut Butter.

It also meant investing in equipment to support the volume that would be required by increased sales – both direct and should its retail footprint expand.

Stowe said the imported equipment that had been ordered, and inevitably delayed by Covid, would increase capacity from 300 units a week to 300 units a day.

The dehydrated nature of Vince meant there was also an opportunity in the outdoors market for people camping and tramping.

While Stowe was keen to capitalise on sales to that market over summer, she was also mindful of the risk that Vince would become “pigeonholed” as an outdoor product, trumping its proposition as a purpose-led meat alternative deliberately developed to avoid the carbon-intensive chilled supply chain and reduce food and packaging waste.

 

 


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